Lawmakers reach tentative agreement on unfinished funding work

Already over two months behind schedule, key lawmakers in Congress said Thursday they had reached a tentative agreement which would hopefully bring $1.3 trillion in funding bills to a vote next week in the House and Senate, avoiding a government shutdown deadline of December 20.

"There's a meeting of the minds," said Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), the Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, as lawmakers scrambled to wrap up a dozen unfinished funding bills for the federal government - work which should have been finished by October 1.

With no details readily available - and House leaders talking about holding a vote by Tuesday on a single giant bill, or maybe a pair of funding plans - the familiar year-end rush caused furrowed brows for some in the Congress.

"Two minibuses = an omnibus," tweeted Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), using the familiar name for large funding measures, in which up to a dozen spending bills are jammed into one catch-all funding plan.

Congress is supposed to be finished with the 12 different funding bills for the federal government by September 30 of each year - as the new fiscal year begins October 1.

But over the past 45 years, it has become standard procedure for lawmakers in both parties to use temporary funding measures - known as 'continuing resolutions' - to fund operations of the government while final spending deals are worked out by the House and Senate.

Only four times since a big change in Congressional budget rules in 1974 has the Congress finished the funding work on time - in 1976, 1988, 1994, and 1996.

About the Author